One year ago today, my sweet Mari set foot on American soil for the very first time.
I am amazed at what this past year has held.
I have written almost every month about her progress...about the joys and challenges of adopting a child who comes with grief and fear and hope...and now here we are one year later and I marvel at what God has done.
In the past 2 months we pulled her out of preschool and breathed a sigh of relief as what appeared to be the final hurdle in her attachment was succesfully crossed. She needed me. She liked school, she wanted school, but she needed her family. She was disappointed in our decision at first, but in a matter of 3 days I knew it had been the right one. I told her that I knew she liked school, but it did not seem to be good for her and that I love her and I want to be her teacher.
Now she knows...now she sees that I want her home in the daytime. I want to be the one who comforts her when she is afraid. I want to be the one who teaches her ABC's and 123's and I was not sending her to school for me, but because I thought she would enjoy it. Now she knows I am willing to do anything for her...that being with her is joy and that her emotional and spiritual health is of utmost importance to us. She has settled in and settled down and has said "I love you" at least a million times since. I was most proud of Drew, who had rather enjoyed his one-on-one pre-K lessons. When I told him Mari was going to do pre-K with him he grinned, put his arm around her and said "You can share my desk!"
Thank you, Jesus.
She talks so freely to me now, and has filled in gaps that had been in my memory from the days and weeks in Ethiopia...when I was with her and when she was waiting for us. She remembers being excited and nervous all at the same time and longs for kids like her who wait to have a family...even offering to "share our Mommy and Daddy with them." She remembers the night she had a meltdown before dinner in Ethiopia and I had NO idea what was wrong and finally could tell me that, when I took her upstairs to get her sippy cup she thought I was going to leave her in the room. She remembers details of that week and her homecoming that blow me away. She is SO smart. On the 1 year anniversary of her "gotcha day" last week, she came downstairs wearing the shirt she was wearing on that day! Again, her understanding blows me away. She knows her life was changed, she knows we treasure her story, and she knows that part of Africa came home with her that day and that one of these days our family will happily journey back to visit, to love, and to serve.
Her behavior is so normal now. She still is catching up in some ways emotionally, but really I don't have any more issues with her than I have with with Drew, who is just 3 months older. She responds beautifully to consistent and clear boundaries, loving and firm discipline, and positive reinforcement. We can't be lax with her, for she needs rock-solid boundaries in order to feel secure and have self-control. We allow choices when the choices are no big deal, but for the most part she thrives knowing we are in charge and "have her back" at all times.
Oh, the books I could write on what God has taught me about my need for Him in this past year. Watching her life be redeemed and transformed has been a huge blessing and I feel so honored that He has placed our family on this path. How He longs to do the same for all of us! To shower us with Fatherly love, to transform and redeem our lives and give us the security of knowing we can live in freedom without fear because He "has our back"...the parallel is so beautiful.
My friends, how I long for you all to experience this amazing journey. If you feel the nudge to adopt, do not be afraid for the Lord goes before you and gives you wisdom and strength you did not know you had. He lights the next step and blesses you with understanding of His heart that you could not learn any other way. You will feel a love grow within you for this child that is such a gift...whether they come home at 2 days old or 12 years old...the Lord is the giver of good gifts and He rejoices to bind your heart with your child's and make you fully and completely a family in every sense of the word. The call to adopt is truly an honor...and I pray you will step forward in faith and don't miss out on what He has for you!
If you are not called to adopt, you are called to do something. (James 1:27) Sponsor a child, foster a child, go on mission to love and give hope, help other families who are called and are working to raise money for their adoptions, give generously to those who are being the hands and feet of Jesus to the 147,000,000 orphans who all have captured the heart of God. He holds them close, as should we all.
One year ago I journeyed across continents and oceans to place a scared, overwhelmed, and tiny little girl into the arms of her father and into the safety of our home.
Today we sat next to our daughter and her 4 siblings at McAlister's deli as she ate a PB&J with applesauce, chatting happily about what she learned in Sunday School. She held my hand as we prayed, she leaned her head lovingly against my shoulder as we ate, and she played with her brothers and sisters all afternoon as if she had always been here.
Because, somehow, in God's kingdom, I believe she has.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.